My family moved to Canada from the Netherlands when I was child.
Growing up in an immigrant household, we were raised with a very strong sense of thankfulness to the Canadians who liberated Holland.
Part of what we learned about the Second World War was about the Dutch families who risked their lives to hide Jewish people. That was a part of our heritage.
During my work in Toronto, I got to know a number of people in the Jewish community. They invited me to a Righteous Among the Nations Ceremony at the Israeli consulate. It’s a program of Israel’s Holocaust Memorial to recognize gentiles who saved Jews.
They were honouring Bart Rijpstra and Wystke Keverkamp, a Dutch couple who hid Jews and other refugees.
I spoke to their daughter, Hannah Steynen, who was just a child during the war.
What struck me in what she said was that, for her parents, it was an utterly normal thing to do. It was just the kind of people they were even though they knew it could have deadly consequence for them.
The Second World War was a long time ago, yet today, in Canada, there is an antisemitic act every 24 hours. Active antisemitism is the most common form of racism in our country.
I was approached by some people in the Jewish community who asked if I would introduce a private members bill on antisemitism. They wanted to see the Ontario government adopt the definition of antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.
MPP Robin Martin from Toronto and I co-sponsored the private members bill. Eventually, the ideas in the bill were adopted as government policy.
Before, there was no universally accepted definition within the government, which meant that it complicated the government’s response to antisemitism.
By adopting the definition it would be easier for the Ontario government to carry out a co-ordinated attack on antisemitic hate.
We have to stand firm against hatred and intolerance. I hope we have advanced that cause.